Palma Sola Bay Mangrove Tunnels
Ok, so here's something EVERYONE should try at least once! Kayaking the mangrove tunnels in Florida! The mangroves are SO COOL!!
Our adventure started on Groupon - the best place to find ideas on what to do in any given area! We came across a Groupon for kayak rentals in Palma Sola Bay, and we snagged the deal! Palma Sola Bay is located just north of Sarasota in Bradenton, Florida.
We called the guy who rents the kayaks and he was super helpful. He told us the best spots in the bay to explore, and also let us know that it's best to do it during high tide because some of the mangroves are inaccessible otherwise - something us newbies wouldn't have considered. He also said to make sure we go out on a day that isn't windy or we would be fighting the current the entire time. Good advice!
It was on! Adventure was waiting for us the next Saturday morning! We excitedly got ready, packed our sunscreen and water bottles, slipped on our water shoes, and hit the road! (Obligatory Instagram car selfie below.)
We arrived at the rental place and after a brief kayaking 101 from the rental guy, we were off! We headed across the bay in our two person canoe, Tim paddling and me recording video on the Go Pro. We were going pretty fast, bouncing over the waves created by passing boats. I was using every ounce of self control to refrain from bursting out the lyrics to every single song on the Pocahontas soundtrack. At one point I lost composure, threw my arms up and yelled, "I'm Pocahontas!" Tim chuckled, but I'm sure deep down he was actually questioning why he married a total loon.
Once we reached the other side, it didn't take long before we found the opening to one of the mangrove tunnels. We passed through some leafy branches and were instantly transported into what felt like a magical, storybook place. Roots sprung up on either side, creating the tunnel walls. Branches intertwined and arched over us creating the ceiling of the tunnel. Sunlight flickered through the branches and reflected off of the shallow, still, glass-like water. IT. WAS. STUNNING. For a moment, the rest of the world melted away and it was just us, exploring what felt like untouched, unexplored wilderness. Absolutely breathtaking.
We were surrounded by wildlife during our exploration. There were big beautiful birds perched in the branches of the mangroves, whelk shells housing sea snails, and tons of horseshoe crab shells tucked up in the winding mangrove roots. There was also one other animal that lived deep in those tunnels...
-cue scary suspense music-
GIANT SPIDER-LIKE CRABS!!
Anyone who knows me knows that my #1 fear is spiders. I DON'T DO SPIDERS. Period. I do love to eat crab, however. They are two completely different things... except in the mangroves. Something was off about these crabs... perhaps it was a murderer look in one of their eyes that caught me, or maybe just a hunch... that feeling that your being watched. I don't know exactly what it was, but I knew those crabs weren't the kind i'd like to see on my dinner plate... or anywhere else for that matter.
It was all fun and games at first, we passed one and it was all like, "Oh cool! Look at that crab OVER THERE ON THAT TREE BRANCH NOWHERE NEAR US. So cool!"
Until it wasn't.
As we went deeper and deeper into the mangroves the water way slowly narrowed and narrowed. We passed one crab on a distant branch, then a little ways further we passed a BUNCH on a closer branch and then the next thing I knew WE WERE SURROUNDED! There were these giant spidery crabs in DROVES, I mean THE TREES WERE ALIVE WITH THEM... INCHES FROM MY FACE... and we were in there tight! I found myself in a catatonic state of panic... stammering out syllables and whimpers just trying to form one single intelligible word. Tim had to physically get out and push the boat backwards out into the "crab-free zone" while I laid back as far as I could in the kayak, trying to recede as much of my body as possible into the hull of the boat.
Once I survived the spidery crab encounter, we headed out of the tunnel and back across the bay. All was well with the world again and we explored some more areas before heading back to the kayak place and calling it a day!
The crab encounter was definitely terrifying, but hey - what storybook doesn't have an evil villain. We still had a happy ending and it was so beautiful and fun that we DEFINITELY plan on doing it again. Next time we know to avoid tight areas where spider-like crabs live. ;)
Check out the YouTube video of our adventure below!